If you're in Cloud, you should be able to do this through the Manage Applications page by enabling JIRA Core, then waiting a minute or so for the changes to propagate through your system. Then you should be able to create Core users. If you wish to use Core instead of software, associate your software group with Core so that existing users don't lose access you disable Software, and then disable Software.
If you're on Server, the process is similar, but you will need to buy licenses from Atlassian. If you don't want to use Software, you can uninstall it after you migrate user groups to Core.
Adding to @Eric Dalgliesh [Administrative Account] answer, one can add Core users independent to the Software users once enabling Core. For example when HR team wants to track candidates, they can be Core only users. The HR team will not be able to use the Software features (such as Kanban), they will only have access to the Core functionality.
This actually tripped me off a bit. If someone already has JIRA Software, and if they do not have users that don't need the Agile features, should they get JIRA core at all? JIRA Software already includes JIRA core, right? From what I understood so far, you need to get JIRA core only if you have users who needs just the core features. In other words, JIRA core is a subset of JIRA software and a user who is licensed in JIRA software gets all the features of JIRA core as well. Please correct me if I am wrong.
For small groups, it seems like it can be financially advantageous to make some of the observer-users "Core" users instead of having full "Software" user seats. Example: instead of our 50-seat "Software" fee, we can get by with 25 "software" seats and 15 core seats (or even 25 core seats) and pay less. But I'm still trying to get a better idea of what's in Core.
Jobin, yes, that's a good summary of the situation. All Core features are included in your Software license. Shawna, yes, that is a big part of the reason for the changes—to allow you to only pay for what you use. Note that Software is geared towards software development while Core is geared towards more generic teams. The main difference at the moment are that Software has the features from JIRA Agile, the Development Tools panel, the release hub, and extra project type templates. You can see more at https://confluence.atlassian.com/migration/jira-7/cloud_jira+agile_product-changes
You don't need to. If you have JIRA or JIRA + Agile, you will be moved to JIRA Software automatically. If you only want JIRA Core (i.e to lose the Agile bits), there should be an option to do just that (I understand it's not too clear where, but if you get stuck, contact Atlassian sales or support)
If you need a new instance of JIRA Core, then you'll need to create a new Cloud instance.
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